My wife, Diane, has been very busy creating new art work in her studio. She recently changed her website to dianeeugsterart.com Since her studio location is on my way to the shop I get to spy on her whenever the door is open! Sometimes I’ll see one of her works in progress and feel the inspiration for a frame design which was the case for this one. I’ve always liked the Art Nouveau style but find that my carving skill level isn’t quite up to the task of reproducing many of its intricacies.
I came up with a simplified design to carve onto the frame and this is the prototype. The frame will be painted black but before painting, the carved areas will be silver leafed. My technique is to allow the paint to cure for a few days and then carefully rub the paint away over the gilded areas to expose the silver. This is done with a cotton ball and wax. I didn’t allow the paint to fully cure — got impatient and wanted to see how it would turn out. The tricky thing (which I goofed up!) is the under/over aspect of the carve. At the far right it flows over and then should have gone under the carve, one of those things that you really have to study to see. On the actual frame the ribbon is carefully laid out.
Every project has its new and unknown factors, that’s what keeps me motivated when I create something. To make sure the corner pattern will be as close to the same on each corner as possible a template was made from some 1/4″ masonite and transferred to the actual frame. Initially, lines were drawn completely around the frame and the pattern lined up with that. The white areas of the design were drawn in freehand.
Next up was laying out the single line that connects the corner details. Working at this craft is mostly a solitary pursuit so you need to come up with your own ways to do these things sometimes. My dilemma was how to draw a straight line that would be consistently parallel to the edge of the frame and then equal width all the way around. I chose to use my marking gauge for this and so far it seems to be working! The marking gauge is one I made myself and I was able to extend the cutter (from Hamilton Tools) to get the depth needed.
Now the work begins. I suppose that oft quoted saying of “ask 10 woodworkers the same question and you’ll get 12 different answers” applies to this project. A few years ago I took a carving workshop from Ian Agrell where I learned his techniques. Essentially, each curvature of the carve is first outlined with the appropriate sweep and size of chisel and then the background is removed. Well, it didn’t take long to discover that this requires a huge number of chisels ($$$!). A friend of mine here in Las Vegas, who is quite an accomplished carver; uses a knife to do almost all of the initial outlining. I’ve had some success with that process but have a hard time making smooth curves as my hand seems to be in the way of seeing the line. So, I improvised by modifying a double beveled, skewed chisel for this purpose. This was a Marples, blue handled chisel I’d had for years but never cared for the look and feel of that handle —- enter the golf ball!
I’ve used golf balls for years on handles for files and rasps. They fit comfortably in the hand and allow you to grip it in any position needed. This method seems to be working for me but I wouldn’t turn down any advice from other carvers on how they would tackle a project such as this.